Dell Responds to PC Fastlane
The rant I posted last Sunday has caught Dell’s attention, as well as the attention of other bloggers and social network users across the web. Thank you to everyone who read my post. For those unfamiliar with what happened, both the AC adapter and battery on my Dell notebook with a freshly-expired warranty died within a day of each other. A representative from Dell’s Community Outreach Liaison has responded to my complaints.
If you want to see what John has to say, he made two comments on the original post. I think what he has to say is substantial enough to warrant a new post, however. I would like to take a moment to thank him for visiting PC Fastlane and leaving Dell’s side of the story.
John posted some very good links regarding battery technology, and pointed out how other laptop makers have had problems in the past with battery fires. He also explained how the very nature of Li-ION technology, which is used in nearly all notebook batteries, limits their lifespan, and explained the reasons behind the battery’s low ratings.
“I work at Dell headquarters, and came across this post.
While I realize this is a rant I am posting to, I thought I’d drop by and give the other side of the story, and give some advice.
Li-ION battery chemistry won’t last forever, no matter who makes them. When I was in support, I received numerous complaints from people claiming we were giving them a shoddy product when their battery failed after a year and a half, and I had the enviable job of explaining Li-ION chemistry to these dissatisfied customers. Check this site is you want to see how these batteries actually work:
Battery problems that affect one computer manufacturer affect them all. Simply put, the batteries we sell are made by the same manufacturers as most of our competitors. The battery recall Dell issued in ‘06 was followed by recalls from several other notebook manufacturers, and you can also see similar results to your scary past link here:
In fact, put any manufacturer’s name in Google followed by the words “battery fire” and you’ll get similar results. It’s a bit disingenuous and very misleading to represent Dell’s past history with batteries the way this review does.”
“As far as the complaints voiced on the ratings portion of Dell’s sell site, most complaints on the battery are from people who either didn’t take advantage of the warranty on their battery during a premature failure, or had incorrect expectations on how long these cells are supposed to last. I counted 36 reviews of the batteries.”
John has some very valid points here. It is common knowledge among computer enthusiasts that Li-ION technology isn’t as long-lasting as we would like. I agree with him that many of the complainers were upset because they had no warranty, and didn’t understand about Li-ION technology. However, I don’t think fault lays with the consumer. Let’s go back to the battery’s product page, shall we?
According to the page, the battery “offers reliable power for dependable performance”. No mention of the faults of Li-ION technology are made. I don’t think it would be out of the ordinary for consumers to expect battery life longer than 15 months considering the description given on the page. A battery that fails without warning after 15 months of use does not provide “dependable power”. If Li-ION battery issues are that common, notebook makers should be more upfront about it.
Take a look at Dell’s product page for their 9-cell battery. The particular battery I have is the 6-cell. The difference between the two is the 9-cell has a larger charge capacity, and is therefore $46 more expensive. Surprisingly, the battery has a 4.2 star review, a huge difference from the 6-cell’s 1.3 star rating. Considering the good ratings the slightly pricier battery received, is it unreasonable for me to expect a longer life out of the 6-cell? After all, the batteries are made for the same notebook. Why did people have so many more problems with the 6-cell than the 9-cell?
As for the power cord complaint on these adapters, one only need visit a local coffee house to see why people are having problems with the power cords. I constantly see people hanging the brick over the edge of the table, pulling the power cable out of the wall by yanking it from the brick, etc. Considering these D-Series adapters are the norm for all Dell notebooks, 46 mixed reviews averaging to 2.3 out of 5 is surprising. I’d expect it to be a lower score with more complaints. People tend to voice their opinions 20 times more often when they’ve been disappointed than when they’ve been pleased.
In your particular case, you opted for a 1 year warranty, and after 15 months, want us to replace both battery (which only ever carries a 1 year warranty as industry standard) and your AC adapter for failing outside this warranty period. I understand that electronics failure is frustrating, but the fact remains that electronics do fail. There is no exception to this rule, which is why when you don’t opt for a 2, 3, or 4 year service plan when buying your system, you are inherently taking a risk. You took a risk, and unfortunately lost. The battery would never have been covered beyond the first year, but you could have at least had a replacement AC adapter under contract. On the bright side, AC adapter failure is minor compared to motherboard or LCD failure.
People mistreat technology. It’s a fact. However, hanging a power adapter over the edge of a table or pulling it by the cord isn’t unusual usage by a long shot. Most well-built power adapters can handle this kind of simple abuse. Power adapters really aren’t complicated technology, and it isn’t difficult or expensive to make something more durable. Like I said in my previous post, I had an IBM power adapter that went through all kinds of abuse. It was dropped numerous times, dragged across the floor, and has been carried on so many planes it should get frequent flyer miles. The only reason why I am still not using after 10 years is because I gave it away, too obsolete for me to make good use of. If IBM could make such a good product with ’90s technology, why can’t Dell in 2008?
As to the warranty, I agree with John. I took a risk by not upgrading my warranty, and lost. Considering the number of Dell batteries and AC adapters that fail, I guess it would make sense to get a warranty. Though something is wrong when components fail often enough to justify the cost of a warranty. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect a battery and AC adapter to live beyond 12 months.
“Oh, and the advice?
Never buy a third party manufacture battery or AC adapter for your notebook. If you do and something goes wrong, and something gets damaged, you’re pretty much out of luck. If the part was a Dell part that caused the problem, you may get an out of warranty repair or replacement if something goes wrong.”
Thanks for the advice. I’m sure the Dell owners here will find it useful.
Once again, I’d like to thank John for his response to my rant. Dell has made some great products in the past, and their current line-up of laptops is certainly impressive. It will be interesting to see how the battery technology used in notebooks evolves in the future.